In the loss, the Badgers certainly had opportunities offensively, driving into Indiana territory on three different instances, but failing to score, going for it on fourth down twice, while punting the other time.
During those opportunities, the Badgers had chances to cut the lead with a field goal, which started near the end of the half, where Wisconsin was at the Indiana 38-yard line, but attempted a Hail Mary rather than kicking the long field goal.
Later on, the Badgers were in the redzone, but a delay of game penalty and a sack drove them back to the Indiana 33-yard line, where head coach Luke Fickell chose to take a five-yard penalty and punt instead of taking the 51-yard field goal.
Finally, on a third opportunity, the Badgers, down three points, had a 4th & 2 at the Indiana 32-yard line, but once again chose to go for it, rather than kick a 50-yard field goal.
What went into those decisions to go for it, rather than kick the field goals with Nathanial Vakos, who has been a reliable kicker and has attempted long field goals in the past?
Head coach Luke Fickell revealed that Nathanial Vakos was injured in some form, although he didn’t specify with what, citing that, as well as the situations as the reason why the Badgers didn’t kick.
“It was a little bit of both [as to why we didn’t kick field goals],” Fickell said, referring to the situation and Vakos’s injury. “I mean, he says he’s fine, but we didn’t put him in a situation to try the 60 yard or whatever it was right before half.”
Regardless, Fickell said the team had to convert those fourth down opportunities, which cost the Badgers dearly.
“So there’s some of those things that are going through your head. I also got to find a way, we got to find a way to make some fourth downs as well. You’re right there at the edge of everything, right? The kick line is the 33 [yard line] maybe going that way and it’s right at the edge of that.”
“And those are decisions that I guess I’ll continue to think about over and over again. Could have been a bit different, but it was a decision we made at the time.”
Fickell later clarified that he was unclear when Vakos sustained the injury, which was in the back of his mind in those situations.
“Yeah, I don’t know if he did a little something before [the game]. They ended up saying that he was all right and he was up and ready to go, but that maybe plays a little bit into the mind of putting a guy in a situation where he can be successful multiple times,” Fickell said.
What was the line that Fickell was willing to kick field goals given Vakos’s injury?
It was actually right near where the Badgers were, with Fickell mentioning the 33-yard line, but the head coach didn’t want to put his kicker in an unfavorable situation, which was why the team went for it instead.
“I mean, that’s right there at the lines,” Fickell said about his comfortability for Vakos. “We usually go out before the game and kind of figure it out on both directions based on some conditions and things like that. But, we haven’t been as successful on some of the extra long ones.”
“And I think sometimes I don’t like the put them in situations where they can’t be successful because when you need them down the stretch or at the very end, I mean, obviously that’s pretty close to the end. You want them to be at their best and you want them to have the right frame of mind. So the one before half is probably why I just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do.”